It’s one of the United States’ best-known rights: automatic citizenship to all born within its borders. But birthright citizenship hasn’t always been the rule of the land in the U.S., and the legal concept has faced plenty of challenges over the century. Here’s the story of birthright citizenship and its challengers.
United States citizenship is rooted in this legal concept
In the U.S., children obtain their citizenship at birth through the legal principle of jus soli (“right of the soil”)—that is, being born on U.S. soil—or jus sanguinis("right of blood”)—that is, being born to parents who are United States citizens.
Most countries in the Western Hemisphere have some form of jus solicitizenship, while Europe favors jus sanguinis citizenship. Today, the United States is one of at least 30 countries that affirm birthright citizenship, including most countries in the Western Hemisphere. “Traditionally” notes the Washington Post, "lenient naturalization laws made it more appealing for Europeans to travel to — and settle in — the New World.”